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Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Luke Easter

Luke Easter

Eligible in 1959.

John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: August 17, 2005 at 03:11 PM | 107 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: August 17, 2005 at 03:14 PM (#1552034)
Sorry about not posting this earlier, but post #388 on the New Eligibles thread had him eligible in '66.

Thanks to Marc for pointing it out to me.
   2. Howie Menckel Posted: August 17, 2005 at 08:35 PM (#1552972)
http://www.baseball-almanac.com/minor-league/minor9.shtml

That thread has a lot of potential 'post-MLB' credit as a minor league star.
Yet another of those truncated careers; at least they got to play in the bigs, but society changed too late for them to get the best possible chance.

He was born sometime between 1911 and 1921, by the way.
   3. sunnyday2 Posted: August 17, 2005 at 09:25 PM (#1553128)
James ranks Easter as the #2 NeL 1B, between Leonard and Taylor. He says he knows it's higher than anybody else has him "but I'll say this. I know he didn't 'do' all that much either in the Negro Leagues or the white majors--but if you could clone him and bring him back, you'd have the greatest power hitter in baseball today, if not ever."

"He didn't get into bseball until he was past 30, yet performed sensationally everywhere he went. With the Homestead Grays in 1948, he hit .363 in 58 games.... Signed by the Indians...he was a genuine phenomenon on the West Coast in 1949, drawing immense crowds everywhere along the coast. He again hit .363 in the PCL, hitting 25 homers and driving in 92 runs in 80 games."

"As a 35-year-old rookie for the Indians in 1950 he drove in 107 runs, 103 more in his second season. Battling injuries in 1952, he still hammered 31 homers and drove in 97 runs in 127 games."

He then returned to the minors. "In 1955, aged 40, he led the IL in homers (35) and RBI (106)."

1956--again led ILwith 40 and 128
1958 (age 43)--38 HR, 109 RBI, .307 in Buffalo
1960 (age 45)--14-57-.302 in 275 AB in Rochester
1962--15-60 in 249 AB

Holy crap! If he had had a normal career curve, all of it in the MLs, it sure seems like he might have hit 700 HR.
   4. sunnyday2 Posted: August 17, 2005 at 10:48 PM (#1553360)
More in his ML career. The PAs are approx. (AB + BB). Born 8-4-15.

1949 age 34--53 PA .222/.340/.289/68
1950--610 PA .280/.373/.487/123
1951--523 PA .270/.333/.481/125
1952--481 PA .263/.337/.513/144
1953--226 PA .303/.361/.445/120
1954--6 PA .167/.167/.167/-8

Total--~1900 PA .274/.350/.481/126

WS

0-20-17-20-6-0

Not quite as sensational as James makes him sound. Still, show me a 1B with OPS+ 123-125-144-120 at age 35-38, I'll show you a guy with an outstanding career and a great peak.

Johnny Mize (2.5 yrs older) at age 35-38: 156-111/119-143-102
Hank Greenberg (4 years older) 99-86-x
Jimmie Foxx (8 years older) 138-134/69-X-(-33)
Mickey Vernon (4 years younger) 151-140-133-125
   5. DavidFoss Posted: August 18, 2005 at 04:00 AM (#1554386)
That August 4th birthday makes Easter's MLB peak a year earlier at 34-37. Its a nitpick, but the line has been traditionally drawn at July 1.

CAREER
1930-1965
1B
AGE BETWEEN 34 AND 37

RCAA                           RCAA    
1    Stan Musial                 196   
2    Johnny Mize                 147   
3    Lou Gehrig                  132   
4    Mickey Vernon               115   
5    Dolph Camilli               104   
6    Bill Terry                  100   
7    Luke Easter                  65   
8    Hank Greenberg               62   
9    Phil Weintraub               45   
10   Roy Sievers                  43 
   6. sunnyday2 Posted: August 18, 2005 at 12:43 PM (#1554737)
I am anxious to see Easter's NeL record and what James means by "Easter didn't do much."

My philosophy is you don't extrapolate a peak for a guy though we routinely extrapolate career value. In Easter's case, you can't make a Musial or Mize of Gehrig or Terry out of him. But a Dolph Camilli, maybe?

Both Camilli and Terry became regulars at 27 (Easter at 34). Camilli was essentially done in 1943 at age 36 though he played again in 1945. From age 26 through 38 (mostly 27 to 35) Camilli's line:

1490 G, 6828 AB+BB+HP, 239 HR-947 RBI-.277/.388/.492/134

Again, not to say it makes Easter a HoMer (or even a real candidate, given that this is all speculation), but I would suggest the measure of Luke Easter may be approximately Dolph Camilli's career + his own:

491 G, 1927 AB+BB+HP, 93-340-,274/.350/,481/126

Total 1981 G, 8755 PA, 332-1287-(approx.).276-380-.490/132

The .380 OB is probably too high, the one significant difference between the two is Camilli's walk rate was higher. But then, Easter's HR rate was about 20.5 versus Camilli's 28.5.

This of course is all in advance of seeing his actual NeL recordIt will be interesting to see if his MLE's end up somewhere in this ballpark.
   7. sunnyday2 Posted: August 18, 2005 at 12:53 PM (#1554742)
PS. His HR and RBI totals (projected--i.e. Camilli + Easter) are comp to the following.

HR by era (1943-1960)
9. Joe Adcock 336
10. Roy Sievers 318

RBI by era (1943-1960)
8. Enos Slaughter 1304
9. Del Ennis 1287
10. Gil Hodges 1275

Easter (proj.) 8755 PA/.276/.380/.490/132
Adcock 7217/.277/.337/.485/125
Ennis 7883/.284/.340/.472/117
Hodges 7998//273/.359/.487/119
Sievers 7358/.267/.354/.475/124
Slaughter 9001/.300/.382/.453/122

Again, this is all fanciful at this point but hoping to get a handle on this guy. But even if Hodges and Slaughter turn out to be comp, that makes him a low borderline candidate, especially since giving him Camilli's career pretty much assumes he played (or would have played) through WWII, whereas the Slaughter that he (speculatively) comps is the one without any WWII credit.
   8. Gadfly Posted: August 18, 2005 at 09:38 PM (#1555962)
Suunyday-

Believe or not, you are probably underestimating this guy (that Bill James' comment that went something like: "If you could clone this guy and give him a do-over, you might have the greatest power hitter of all time" is, in my opinion, dead-on accurate). Just consider that Easter spent his entire Major League career (1950-1953) basically hobbled by a series of horrible leg and ankle injuries. He was literally never healthy for a full season while in the Majors.

As a matter of fact, Easter was only really healthy at just one point in his Major League career - the second half of the 1952 season (while he was turning 37). I have his second half 1952 stats around here somewhere and they are quite eye-opening. After I finally finish my runaway Willard Brown analysis and do something on Quincy Trouppe, I'm going to get to Easter. But basically, Easter is almost a dead-on comp for Willie McCovey, except I think Easter was better and even more powerful.
   9. KJOK Posted: August 20, 2005 at 06:40 AM (#1559607)
I posted Easter's year-by-year stats to the HOM egroup IF someone wants to do some MLE's for Easter...
   10. Brent Posted: August 20, 2005 at 09:11 AM (#1559704)
A couple of big questions about Easter:

1. What do we know, or what are we supposed to assume, about his baseball record prior to 1947, when he first appears in the Negro Leagues Book?

2. How sure are we that he was actually born in 1914, and not (as Howie Menckel suggests in # 2) possibly as late as 1921?

By comparison, it's now known that Minnie Minoso is actually two or three years younger than his listed age, a discovery that has knocked a big hole in the HOF argument that Bill James was making for many years. I'm not sure why Minoso claimed to have been older than his actual age (so-called "baseball ages" are almost always younger), but unless we are very sure of the player's actual age, I think we should be skeptical about using a player's late peak as the primary evidence of an undocumented early career.
   11. KJOK Posted: August 20, 2005 at 06:45 PM (#1560194)
Easter claimed to have been born in 1922 when he was signed by the Indians.

The record books recorded his birthdate as August 4, 1921.

However, on "Luke Easter Night" on August 17, 1963 in Rochester, Easter told the crowd that he was really 52 years old, which would have made his birth year 1911...
   12. KJOK Posted: August 20, 2005 at 07:14 PM (#1560297)
and when he died, the birthyear given was 1915....
   13. karlmagnus Posted: August 20, 2005 at 09:15 PM (#1560612)
WHY didn't he get into NEL baseball before 30? I tend to favor the 1921 birth date, for want of hard information, in which case he was nothing special. It's not the war; there was 1946-48 in between.
   14. KJOK Posted: August 21, 2005 at 07:10 AM (#1561376)
According to the March 30, 1949 Sporting News, Easter was playing sandlot ball in St. Louis in 1941 when he broke his ankle, and due to the ankle and the war did not resume playing until 1946 with the Cincinnati Crescents, hitting .415 with 152 RBI's for the Crescents...
   15. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: August 21, 2005 at 02:53 PM (#1561489)
According to the 1930 Census that I just checked, there's a Lucius Easter living in St. Louis, Missouri. He was about fifteen at the time, originally born in Mississippi, and his parents were James (worked at a car shop) and Annie.

It appears we have our man (or teenager, to be more accurate :-) here, but it would be nice if we knew the names of his parents to confirm it 100%.
   16. karlmagnus Posted: August 21, 2005 at 03:49 PM (#1561550)
If he was born in 1915, why was he still playing sandlot ball at 26?
   17. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: August 21, 2005 at 03:54 PM (#1561556)
If he was born in 1915, why was he still playing sandlot ball at 26?

Good question, karlmagnus. Late bloomer?

All I know is that I trust the census records for a child almost over any other record or statement (sometimes including birth records, since they can be doctored later on).
   18. Brent Posted: August 21, 2005 at 05:18 PM (#1561655)
So it looks like we've answered my second question from post # 10 (when was actually born?), but that still leaves the first question unanswered: how do we treat the roughly 12 years that are missing from Easter's resume?

On the one hand, it seems highly improbable that he wasn't playing baseball, and playing it well at whatever level, during those years. On the other hand, I think most of us would not be willing to simply imagine the missing half of a career.
   19. Big Banjo Posted: August 21, 2005 at 05:29 PM (#1561666)
Easter simply falls into the category of "Players we wish we'd seen more of." Nothing more. It's bad enough to work off MLE's for sketchy NeL statistics, but to imagine what 12 phantom years might have looked like? Might as well elect Strat-O-Matic cards into the Hall of Merit. As for his late arrival, Dazzy Vance didn't "stick" in the Bigs until he was past 30. Wierd stuff happens, even to guys with monster talent.
   20. Gadfly Posted: August 21, 2005 at 05:37 PM (#1561683)
Luke Easter was definitely born August 4, 1915 in Jonestown, Mississippi (confirmed by birth certificate, census research, and Social Security application). His father's name was James and mother's name was Annie (i.e. Murphy's info has the right family). His family moved to St. Louis when he was young so that his father could get a better paying industrial job. His father had been a farmer in Mississippi.

When he went to the Majors, Easter would claim a 1921 birth year. Later, exactly like Willard Brown right down to the years, Easter would take a page from Satchel Paige and claim birth years of 1911 and 1913 at various times.

Easter grew up in St. Louis, attending the same high school as Quincy Trouppe. However, unlike Trouppe, when Easter came of age there was no top Negro League team operating out of St. Louis. The top Negro League team in St. Louis area was a team called the St. Louis Giants or St. Louis Titanium Giants.

This team was sponsered by the American Titanium Company. Basically, the players worked for the company, getting full time (i.e. year round)employment, with lots of time off to practice and compete for the company team. Easter was on this team, by my sources from 1937 to 1941. [However, as I have never researched the St. Louis Argus, it is possible that Easter played for the team before 1937 and during the war too.]

Oddly, years later when Easter made it to the Major Leagues, he would deny that he played hardball at all before 1946. Instead, he claimed that he only played softball while growing up. Easter, in other words, was busy making his own myth.

Interestingly, when the Negro American League formed in 1937, the league tried to re-establish the St. Louis Stars' franchise. It didn't take, at least in partially because of competition with the St. Louis Giants (also, the Stars were not that good of a team).

Basically, Easter's decision to play for the St. Louis Giants was a financial one. He got year-round employment, almost surely made much more money than he would have in the Negro Leagues, didn't have to travel around, and played on a helluva team.

And the St. Louis Giants were a really good team. The core of the team was Easter, Sam Jethroe (actual birth year 1917), Jesse Askew (shortstop for the 37 Stars), and Herb Bracken (a forgotten but frontline quality Negro League pitcher). Reportedly the Stars played six games against Negro American League teams in 1940 and won them all.

In 1941, the St. Louis Giamts were still together but their season was marred by a bad car crash while traveling to a game in the South. In this car crash, Easter had his foot or leg (sources contradict) broken. The car was being driven by Sam Jethroe. After the 1941 season, I can find no mention of the team. Whether the crash or the war ended the team, or the team ended at all, is unknown.

In 1942, Sam Jethroe, who had a draft deferment, went to play for the newly formed Cleveland Buckeyes (the General Manager of the Buckeyes was from St. Louis). Easter would have probably also entered the Negro League in 1942 if he had been able to get a draft deferment.

But he did not. Easter ended up getting out of the military by working in war essential industries. So, from 1942 to 1945, Easter was essentially trapped in his job. To quit his job would be to have to immediately enlist.

Late in 1945, with the war over, Easter went to Chicago to see Candy Jim Taylor, the manager of the Chicago American Giants about trying out for Taylor's club. Taylor didn't sign him but put him in touch with Abe Saperstein.

[Weirdly enough, Taylor also got first crack at signing Josh Gibson and turned him down too.]

Saperstein, mostly known now as the founder and first owner of the Harlem Globetrotters, was the foremost baseball promoter in the midwest at that time (he was actually the booking agent for 4 out of the 6 NAL teams). Saperstein signed Easter for a new team he was creating, the Cincinnati Crescents.

Saperstein wanted the Crescents admitted into the NAL; but the NAL owners, already leery of Abe's influence, put it off. So, in 1946, the Crescents barnstormed the entire United States, playing a ton of games against both NNL and NAL teams.

Easter quickly emerged as the superstar of the Crescents, hitting home runs at an incredible rate (sometimes credited with 74 for the 1946 season). After the 1946 season, Saperstein sold Easter to the Negro National League Homestead Grays who were looking to replace the deceased Josh Gibson.

Easter, moving East and almost surely playing against NNL teams for the first time, had a very good 1947 season for the Grays, hitting just over .300 with very good power as he adjusted. In 1948, Luke Easter had a monster year, hitting .363, tying for the league lead in HRs, and leading the NNL in RBIs.

The Grays sold Easter to the Cleveland Indians. In spring training of 1949, Easter badly hurt his knee. The Indians assigned Easter to the San Diego club in the Pacific Coast League. In half a season, before the pain in his knee got so bad, Easter simply destroyed the PCL, hitting .363 (again) with 25 home runs and 80 RBIs.

Easter had his knee operated on in mid-season of 1949, was called up by the Indians late in 1949 and then spent the tail end of the 1949 season hobbling around for the Indians. Although Easter won the Cleveland 1B job in 1950, he was still affected adversely by his knee operation.

Weirdly enough, Easter would basically play his entire Major League career while injuring his legs and ankles over and over again; but, when he returned to the Minors for good in 1954, Easter would never again have any serious injury problems.

Simply evaluating Easter by his Major League career would be like evaluating Junior Griffey just by the his injury-marred 2001-2004 seasons.

Hope that helps.
   21. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: August 21, 2005 at 05:39 PM (#1561687)
On the other hand, I think most of us would not be willing to simply imagine the missing half of a career.

At this time, I don't think we can. Sounds like a nice project for our resident Negro League historians Gadfly and Gary A to check into, though.
   22. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: August 21, 2005 at 05:47 PM (#1561697)
Well, Gadfly's post changes things a little. :-)

Great stuff! We have a little more to chew on now.

I'm glad that you verified my census detective work, too. As the genealogist for my family, I know that being 99% accurate just doesn't cut it.
   23. Howie Menckel Posted: August 21, 2005 at 06:11 PM (#1561732)
"Reportedly the Stars played six games against Negro American League teams in 1940 and won them all."

Gadfly, I assume this was a typo and you meant "the GIANTS" won all six of those games?

Great stuff, by the way. I always found Easter's career fascinating anyway, moreso now with more revelations.
First instinct is he doesn't make my ballot, though, but he's an interesting case study..
   24. karlmagnus Posted: August 21, 2005 at 06:32 PM (#1561763)
Using my own brutalist stat methods here, I give Easter 10 "dead" seasons (comparable to Joss/Leever/Cicotte's non-careers) of 1937-48. In the ML, he had 472 hits at an OPS+ of 125. As all are saying, he was clearly declining by then, so for his "dead" seasons we average 180 hits, at an average OPS+ of 135, for an additional 2160 hits. Then we multiply by 25% for "dead credit." Total is 540 hits at 135, which when added to his ML career gives 1012 hits at an OPS+ of 130-131. Doesn't do it.
   25. karlmagnus Posted: August 21, 2005 at 06:32 PM (#1561764)
sorry, 12 "dead" seasons not 10.
   26. Gadfly Posted: August 21, 2005 at 09:29 PM (#1562121)
Note to Howie [#23]:

You are, of course, correct. I meant the Giants, not the Stars. I also note that I spelt Giants as Giamts at one point and got Easter's 1949 RBI count wrong. Alas, I was typing fast and off the top of my head so I could go shopping with my lady. Not my best work.


Easter, by just his Major League stats, is not Hall of Merit or Fame material. Given Negro and Minor League credit, i.e. a career spanning from about 1946 to 1960, he becomes a very interesting borderline contender.

But Bill James is right. If Easter gets a do-over and plays ball from 1937 to 1960 in the Majors without interruptions or injuries, the man would have a legend something like Babe Ruth. If one is inclined to give Easter credit for his complete career, he is an inner circle kind of guy.

Also I must admit that, as usual, I totally disagree with Karl Magnus' assessment. A player, hobbled by injuries and in his late thirties who puts up a 125+ OPS is very unlikely to simply have a 135+ OPS in his prime.

In 1952, age 37, Easter, still injured but about as healthy as he ever was in the Majors, posted a 144+ OPS. What he would have done at the age of, say, 28, healthy and uninjured, I don't know; but it would have been way over a 144+OPS. The guy had light tower power.
   27. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: August 21, 2005 at 10:02 PM (#1562186)
If Easter gets a do-over and plays ball from 1937 to 1960 in the Majors without interruptions or injuries,

Was he still a major league hitter while he was in the minors after '54? If he was, then maybe we should wait until '66 (or at least after '59) for him to be eligible.
   28. KJOK Posted: August 22, 2005 at 06:34 AM (#1562902)
A couple of notes:

Easter appears to have been a "major league" calibre hitter all the way thru 1958. So, if just credited with 1946 - 1958, that's probably a boarderline "short career" HOM type of player.

Easter was helping to set all kinds of attendance records in the PCL when he was with San Diego. Teams were having sellouts, even putting standing room only patrons in the outfields ala the deadball era, all to see Easter's batting. When he had the knee surgery and then went to Cleveland, PCL owners were somewhat upset the Indians didn't leave him in the league for the remainder of the season, and estimated about $200,000 of lost profit..

Easter also apparently attracted a big pre-game crowd to watch him take batting practice in the PCL, as the Sporting News mentions that had only been seen for Ruth, Williams and Ernie Lombardi(!)

Finally, Easter was initially seen as a bit of a disappointment in 1949, although as the The Sporting News mentions, it was not reasonable to assume his timing would be good after such a long layoff (6 weeks for the knee surgery) plus making the adjustment from PCL to AL pitching during the pennant stretch run.
   29. sunnyday2 Posted: August 22, 2005 at 12:00 PM (#1562989)
An interesting question, whether Easter should get MLE credit for his PCL days. Usually we think about giving MiL credit (and some do, some don't) at the beginning of a career when a player is "held back" unreasonably.

Generally players who go down to the MiLs at the end of their career are presumed to have been evaluated fairly. I mean, clearly, managers and GMs and etc. have all seen the player, whereas sometimes they hadn't seen the young phenom.

Can anyone think of a case where MLE credit has been given to end-of-career MiL play? (As opposed to mid-career, e.g. Cravath, maybe Fournier, etc.)

But in Easter's case there is the fact that the MLs were assimilating black players in limited numbers (quotas). This seems to be a fact. And yet, the NeLs had been destroyed by integration, so black players had nowhere else to get except the white MiLs or else Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, etc.

And obviously there are other NeLers for whom this question is highly relevant--e.g. should there be MLE credit end-of-career MiL play for those blacks who didn't make it or didn't stick in the MLs?
   30. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: August 22, 2005 at 02:55 PM (#1563195)
Sunnyday2,

This question of post-MLB credit is very clearly relevant to Ray Dandridge, Sam Jethroe, Willard Brown, and others. I think using MLEs to determine when Easter's natural decline would have led to his being consistently below average is a fair way of evaluating the rough point at which he would have been expected to bow out of MLB.

I'm in the wooly world of moving into our first house, so I'm going to a bit hit-and-miss over hte next couple weeks. I'm working on Trouppe now and hoping to have some work done on Easter by the time he's eligible....
   31. karlmagnus Posted: August 22, 2005 at 03:08 PM (#1563224)
What about minor league credit for Clark Griffith in 1892-3, if we're giving credit all over the place?
   32. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: August 22, 2005 at 03:16 PM (#1563239)
What about minor league credit for Clark Griffith in 1892-3, if we're giving credit all over the place?

What about it, karlmagnus? I've been giving him credit for those seasons for "decades" now.
   33. sunnyday2 Posted: August 22, 2005 at 03:25 PM (#1563256)
I don't generally, Cravath being almost the only exception to the rule. But what the hell?
   34. karlmagnus Posted: August 22, 2005 at 03:29 PM (#1563263)
With those to seasons added back, he gets to about 270 wins, almost all of them after the pitching distance change. If everybody's giving this credit, why haven't we elected him decades ago?
   35. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: August 22, 2005 at 03:33 PM (#1563273)
With those to seasons added back, he gets to about 270 wins, almost all of them after the pitching distance change. If everybody's giving this credit, why haven't we elected him decades ago?

Because even with the credit, he doesn't really stand out among his peers in a lot of our minds. Never being remotely the best for any one season hurts him, too.
   36. sunnyday2 Posted: August 22, 2005 at 04:14 PM (#1563363)
OTOH we all know that almost nobody would stand out among HIS peers--Young, Nichols and Rusie. And that after Young, Nichols and Rusie, well, yes, he WAS the best of the rest. That's why he is still on my radar around #25-30 most years. I don't know if that enables him to move up into the top 15 when we start electing 3 or not. But he is not forgotten.
   37. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: August 22, 2005 at 04:20 PM (#1563374)
OTOH we all know that almost nobody would stand out among HIS peers--Young, Nichols and Rusie. And that after Young, Nichols and Rusie, well, yes, he WAS the best of the rest. That's why he is still on my radar around #25-30 most years. I don't know if that enables him to move up into the top 15 when we start electing 3 or not. But he is not forgotten.

Same here, Marc. I didn't mean to imply that his candidacy is baseless.
   38. KJOK Posted: August 22, 2005 at 11:22 PM (#1564164)
Can anyone think of a case where MLE credit has been given to end-of-career MiL play? (As opposed to mid-career, e.g. Cravath, maybe Fournier, etc.)

Buzz Arlett.
   39. KJOK Posted: August 22, 2005 at 11:43 PM (#1564231)
Easter suffered a broken foot when hit by a pitch and was injured from last April thru June 20th of 1953.
   40. KJOK Posted: August 22, 2005 at 11:56 PM (#1564284)
Easter was put on waivers by the Indians on Oct 1st, 1953. However, he was invited to Spring Training in 1954, but nursed an infected toe. Easter made the team, but only PH. Back in 1954 teams were allowed to have "expanded" roster thru early May, when they then had to cut down to 25 men, and that's when Easter was optioned to Ottawa.
   41. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: August 23, 2005 at 04:02 AM (#1565266)
Does anyone out there have Easter's walk data for his PCL, IL, or AA seasons?

Thanks!
   42. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: August 23, 2005 at 10:55 AM (#1565521)
Pretty intriguing career here. As a big fan of Gavy Cravath type cases, I can see giving him credit for a career of 1937-38 (maybe a year to get 'discovered' that wouldn't count) until 1954 at a minimum. I have a feeling that I may become his best friend . . . great stuff Gadfly.

I mean you have the Negro League thing, combined with the war credit thing. I know you are 'making up' a career in a sense, but I really don't think you are. He played from 1937-41. You've got war credit from 1942-45. You've got actual Negro League/Major League/PCL from 1946-54.

This is going to be a very interesting one . . .
   43. sunnyday2 Posted: August 23, 2005 at 12:54 PM (#1565557)
Two perspectives, though maybe this is really more apropos of Willard Brown than of Luke Easter...

1) It's been said that the NeL (or maybe it was just the NAL) was weak there toward the end. But while, yes, Jackie Robinson was in the MLs or at least the ML system, the vast majority of blacks had nowhere else to go. Even Bob Caruthers and Harry Stovey and Pete Browning could have jumped to the NL if they had wanted, but most blacks not named Robinson had a few years there between the decline of the NeLs and their welcome into the MLs.

So discount their numbers, sure, but you can't say they weren't playing ball or that they weren't playing against the best available competition. The MLs were not available to ALL black players all at once.

2) OTOH maybe the Robinsons and Campanellas and Dobys (and who else?) who are going to be obvious HoMers, maybe they are the cream of the crop anyway. It's not like we're missing a whole generation of black players. Even if they had all gone into the MLs all at once in 1947, these are the guys who would have risen to the top regardless. So we're not missing anybody.

Monte Irvin will be the swing man if you want to adopt this POV. Whereas, if you do, the Willard Browns and Luke Easters are probably not HoMers because progressive baseball men like Branch Rickey et al basically said so. They made all of the right choices.

Those are the two points of view I can see as characterizing the period of Luke Easter's career. Easter is of course a special case because he didn't play at an elite level until a fairly advanced age. So like I said maybe this belonged on the Willard Brown thread.

But some moments I thiink maybe we're missing a generation here, other times I think not.
   44. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: August 23, 2005 at 01:29 PM (#1565605)
Sunnyd,

You are assuming, however, that talent was cherrypicked from the NgLs efficiently, but with several teams very slow to integrate (the Phils, the Yanks, the Red Sox, for instance) and with de facto quotas in place, the ladder for rising to the majors was quite haphazard no matter what your talent level. After all, the big leagues passed Josh Gibson up.

It seems from much of what you read that the major leagues believed that younger players were the way to go and that as an older player, Jethroe, Irvin, and Easter were very much an exception to the rule. More typical was the Robinson, Minoso, Aaron, Mays, Banks, Doby, Hank Thompson type of guy who was in his 20s when he got into the league.

The older guys like Easter and Jethroe had a very short leash and were farmed out quickly at the first sign of decline, whereas a veteran white guy might have hung on longer.

That is if they made it in the first place.... (Barnhill, Dandridge, et al never did).
   45. sunnyday2 Posted: August 23, 2005 at 01:34 PM (#1565612)
Doc, well, I'm not assuming anything. These are two different points of view from which one might assess Easter, Willard, etc. I'm not sure which is right or of course maybe there's a bit of truth to each. I sounds to me like you're endorsing more of the first POV which is that for many if not most NeLers as of 1947 integration was not an immediate blessing.

I am hoping there will be more discussion on these two perspectives, because I need to figure out where Easter goes, not to mention Dandridge.
   46. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: August 23, 2005 at 02:00 PM (#1565659)
I guess you're right that I tend to endorse the first perspective in as much as history seems to bear it out. I don't have a list of when each team integrated or first signed black players to a minor league contract, but it seems pretty clear that integration was a very bumpy process where, to use a Moneyball analogy, the smartest teams parlayed a marketplace inefficiency into success, and others were left behind.

Brooklyn, the Giants, the Chisox, the Indians, the Braves. These teams integrated quickly and got many of the best available players from the Negro Leagues. As a result, they were contenders deep into the 1950s.

The Phils and Sox chose not to compete for black talent and languished after brief flirtations with all-white success in the early 1950s. Their farm systems just couldn't keep up with teams getting polished talent from the NgLs.

Most teams fell somewhere in between these two extremes with some like the Pirates, Cardinals, Cubs, and Senators/Twins having a slow but sure approach to integration that helped lead them to sustained success in the 1960s (before the amatuer draft was initiated).

I think the second POV gives too much credit to the baseball establishment. There's plenty of anecdotal evidence of good players either not getting a call up, getting an unfair shake if they are called up, or else cut from the minors for "uppity" behavior. MLB is notoriously conformist and conservative, I just don't see why we should believe that they would be capable of picking the cream of the crop when so many societal forces were working against integration to begin with and when the historical record itself suggests they didn't always recognize the best guys, nor deploy them ideally.
   47. Mark Shirk (jsch) Posted: August 23, 2005 at 02:06 PM (#1565668)
I am with sunny on this. Undecided.

However, to argue the other point for a minute...

Weren't the Negro Leagues always sort of a stars and scrubs league? What I mean by that is that while the top talent (Suttles, Gibson, Leonard, and on and on) was good enough to be among the best in MLB but the league was still only at a AA/AAA level as a whole. This means a lower repalcement level and that the bottom half of the league was nothing special.

Now imagine if you take out a lot of the younger stars from the league, wouldnt' the league be a good bit worse? It would have consisted of the few stars in their 20's that hadn't been picked up, a lot of aging stars and the normal relatively low level of talent.

I know that the stars and scrubs thing is a little overblown here and I dont' know haw many of the young stars were in the hands of MLB at this time. But wouldn't this hurt the quality of the league a good bit? The NeL's were functionally out of business by the mid 50's right? Wouldn't there be a decline prior to this happening?
   48. sunnyday2 Posted: August 23, 2005 at 02:29 PM (#1565697)
The real question re. "the left behinds" (the second tier NeLers after integration) is how much of a discount do they get. Say somebody hits (pro-rated to 154 games) 60 HR and .400. Do you cut them 10 percent, 25 percent, 50 percent? The question is, at what point (what discount) do you get to the point where Babe Ruth or Barry Bonds couldn't hit enough HR or for high enough average to look half decent?

All apropos of Luke Easter's 1948 season when he hit .363 and led the league in HR and RBI. This isn't as good as Josh Gibson with the same numbers a decade earlier, but how much worse is it?
   49. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: August 23, 2005 at 02:59 PM (#1565792)
Does anyone out there have Leaguewide data for the PCL, IL, and AA when Easter was there? It would be mighty helpful for his MLEs!

Thanks!
   50. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: August 23, 2005 at 08:02 PM (#1566650)
Gadfly, any chance you've got numbers for Easter's 1946 season in Cincy? Thanks!
   51. KJOK Posted: August 24, 2005 at 04:55 AM (#1568308)
Easter's 1954-55 Mexican PCL stats for Hermosillo(not in THE NEGRO LEAGUES BOOK):

AB-210*
H-77*
RBI-51*
HR-20 (Led League)
AVE-.367* (2nd in league)
SLG-.671 SLG (Led League)

* = Not "final, official" stats
   52. KJOK Posted: August 24, 2005 at 05:04 AM (#1568316)
Does anyone out there have Easter's walk data for his PCL, IL, or AA seasons?

Thanks!


I've only been able to find 1954 San Diego PCL - 27 Walks and 2 HBP.
   53. Gary A Posted: August 24, 2005 at 02:19 PM (#1568573)
In the 1948 NNL, Easter hit .363 and slugged .721; in the 1949 PCL he hit .363 and slugged .722. If I could find that PCL book, it might have league totals for that year (and maybe walks for him, too).

Otherwise, the only minor league season I've got stats for is Easter's brief appearance with Indianapolis of the 1952 AA:

G-14
AB-50
H-17
D-2
T-0
HR-0
R-13
RBI-12
BB-10
K-7
SB-1
AVE-.340 (AA .271)
OBA-.450 (AA .348)
SLG-.380 (AA .406)
   54. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: August 24, 2005 at 02:27 PM (#1568597)
Here's a stab at what we currently know about Luke Easter. These MLEs follow the same types of methods and assumptions found in the Brown and Trouppe MLEs.

I have not yet attempted any kind of systematic credit for any of the missing pre-1947 seasons.

What's shown below is in two parts. The first part is what I think Easter's career might have looked like. It has his career ending at age 43, which is probably too old, though he was an above-average hitter until age 42. Perhaps as a first baseman, this isn't all that accurate.

Feed back appreciated!!!

The second section continues his MLEs, picking up his minor league seasons just for comparison's sake.

YEAR lg AGE POS  avg  obp  slg   g    ab   h   tb   bb   pa ops+ ws
-------------------------------------------------------------------
1947 nl  31  of .284 .354 .445  159  606  172  270  66  671 111  23
1948 nl  32  of .347 .423 .603  145  552  192  333  73  625 175  40
1949 al  33  1b .329 .410 .424   80  304  100  129  42  346 121  13
1950 al  34  1b .280 .363 .487  141  536  150  261  70  605 116  23
1951 al  35  1b .270 .322 .481  128  486  131  234  37  523 115  17
1952 al  36  1b .267 .335 .522  141  536  143  280  55  591 136  22
1953 al  37  1b .303 .349 .445   68  258   78  115  18  277 113   9
1954 al  38  1b .280 .354 .454  123  468  131  212  54  521 121  17
1955 nl  39  1b .260 .326 .459  131  497  129  228  49  546 106  16
1956 nl  40  1b .275 .344 .474  145  551  152  261  58  609 118  21
1957 nl  41  1b .251 .316 .461  154  585  147  270  56  641 106  18
1958 nl  42  1b .276 .345 .492  148  562  155  277  59  622 119  22
1959 nl  43  1b .236 .299 .389   75  285   67  111  26  311  82   6
====================================================================
                .281 .350 .479 1639 6227 1748 2980 662 6889 120 248

-------------------------------------------------------------------
1960 nl  44  1b .272 .340 .414  115  437  119  181  45  482 106  13
1961 nl  45  1b .262 .329 .420   82  312   82  131  31  343  97   9
1962 nl  46  1b .253 .319 .422   93  353   89  149  34  387  97  10
1963 nl  47  1b .244 .308 .345   77  293   71  101  27  320  88   5
1964 nl  48  1b .180 .233 .164   10   38    7    6   3   41  14   0
====================================================================
                .276 .345 .463 2016 7659 2116 3548 802 8461 115 285


Given this set of information, I think it's well worth asking the group this question:

How do we approach the question of Easter's pre-1947 play?

1) We don't have hard stats for his 1946 Cincy season, but Gadfly's account and the extent stats certainly suggest he was smashing the ball.

2) As a war-industry worker, he certainly qualifies for WW2 credit from 1942-1945.

3) This combination would add five years to his career, taking him back to age 26. But Gadfly's account also suggests that Easter was playing ball possibly as far back as 1937 (age 21). How far back should we go with him?

3a) He was hurt in the car accident in 1941 or 1942 (per Gadfly), so that season will only be a partial season for him no matter what.

4) Finally, what's the method to use to look backward? I think it was MichaelBass or AndrewSiegel who suggested using the parabolic shape based on recent research. I'll look into that model. In addition, there's the old standby of +5% on OPS per year up to age 27, 0% change for ages 27-29, -5% beginning age 30 (essentially parabloic I suppose). Either method would allow us to construct a reasonable model for Easter's value with adjustments for injury as noted.
   55. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: August 24, 2005 at 02:30 PM (#1568607)
Gary, the data KJOK posted on the file server said that Easter had 6 HR that season. Any sense of where the discrepency is coming from and which source I should go with?
   56. sunnyday2 Posted: August 24, 2005 at 02:43 PM (#1568631)
I have a problem with projecting Easter's career back. It's just too much speculation.

Dobie Moore, as a counter-example, played with an elite military team, the Wreckers, before joining the NLs, and his play there (or, at least, the fact that he did play there) is documented, and we know that the team was probably as good as some of the early NL teams.

With Easter, we don't even know who he was playing with, much less against. This may well be as a result of racism and of limited opportunities, but we don't really know that. I mean, black ballplayers came from all over the country to play in the NLs. So I'm just not sure.

And giving him WWII credit is like giving it to Ralph Kiner or Warren Spahn. Were they ML players before the war? Not that we know. Was Easter a NeL player before the war? No. So I'm not sure about that either.

As for me, being a peak voter, Easter is less of a problem than for you careerists, I guess. For me, his ultimate rating/ranking will rest on his 1947-54 years, let the chips fall where they may. In fact he is very similar to Dobie Moore with about 7 years at the highest levels of play available, plus about an equal number of years when we know he was playing ball just not at the highest level.

Except Moore was a SS who hit like, well, Luke Easter.
   57. Al Peterson Posted: August 24, 2005 at 03:02 PM (#1568668)
Thanks to the good Dr. for the numbers in #54. I've got a question about them though. Forgive me since I don't usually got in depth with the MLEs material.

How come when I look at Easter's 1950-53 numbers they are different from what is seen in bb-ref for Easter? It would seem to be those years there doesn't need to be MLEs.

I want to know major league equivalents. Oh wait, he was in the majors. So those should be MLAs (major league actuals)?
   58. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: August 24, 2005 at 04:27 PM (#1568879)
Al,

You're right, that's my goof up. I had inadvertantly copied a formula where hard numbers were supposed to be. I'll fix it and repost shortly. Thanks for the catch!
   59. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: August 24, 2005 at 04:52 PM (#1568948)
CORRECTED EASTER MLEs

Just to be clear, what happened was that I used the conversion formulae where I should have simply entered his big-league data. It doesn't change things drastically, but it makes a small difference.

Just so everyone knows, I'm not including HPB and SH/SF in my calculation of OBP and in my PA totals, just BB, so that means that the OBP you see here will differ slightly from Easter's fully expressed OBP.

YEAR lg AGE POS avg  obp  slg    g   ab   h    tb  bb   pa ops+ ws
------------------------------------------------------------------
1947 nl  31 of .284 .354 .445  159  606  172  270  66  671 111  23
1948 nl  32 of .347 .423 .603  145  552  192  333  73  625 175  40
1949 al  33 1b .336 .415 .430   80  286   96  123  39  325 124  13
1950 al  34 1b .280 .373 .487  141  536  151  263  70  610 119  23
1951 al  35 1b .270 .333 .481  128  486  131  234  37  523 118  17
1952 al  36 1b .267 .337 .529  141  536  143  283  59  594 138  23
1953 al  37 1b .303 .343 .445   68  211   64   94  15  230 111   8
1954 al  38 1b .274 .360 .448  123  468  128  209  54  504 121  17
1955 nl  39 1b .260 .326 .459  131  497  129  228  49  546 106  16
1956 nl  40 1b .275 .344 .474  145  551  152  261  58  609 118  21
1957 nl  41 1b .251 .316 .461  154  585  147  270  56  641 106  18
1958 nl  42 1b .276 .345 .492  148  562  155  277  59  622 119  22
1959 nl  43 1b .236 .299 .389   75  285   67  111  26  311  82   6
==================================================================
               .280 .351 .480 1639 6161 1727 2955 660 6811 120 247

1960 nl  44 1b .272 .340 .414  115  437  119  181  45  482 106  13
1961 nl  45 1b .262 .329 .420   82  312   82  131  31  343  97   9
1962 nl  46 1b .253 .319 .422   93  353   89  149  34  387  97  10
1963 nl  47 1b .244 .308 .345   77  293   71  101  27  320  88   5
1964 nl  48 1b .180 .233 .164   10   38    7    6   3   41  14   0
==================================================================
               .276 .345 .464 2016 7594 2095 3523 800 8384 116 284
   60. Gary A Posted: August 24, 2005 at 04:56 PM (#1568958)
Gary, the data KJOK posted on the file server said that Easter had 6 HR that season. Any sense of where the discrepency is coming from and which source I should go with?

Good catch. I got the 1952 line from Marshall Wright's book, whereas KJOK's comes from The Negro Leagues Book. I added up the individual home runs hit by Indianapolis players in Wright's book, and they came to 114 (luckily, he includes pitchers, and there were no players who divided time between Indy and other AA teams). In the team totals, though, Indianapolis is given 120 home runs, a discrepancy of 6. So it appears the "0" home runs is a typo in Wright. That would give him a SLG of .740 for those 14 games.
   61. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: August 24, 2005 at 04:56 PM (#1568960)
Sunnyday2,

If Easter was hurt with other teammates in that 1941 car accident in a vehicle carrying Sam Jethroe, then we know he was playing at a high level at least that early. Jethroe entered black ball in 1942 and was an immediate impact player. So I can't imagine that if Jethroe made a successful transition to the NNL that Easter couldn't have also done so, especially considering his smooth transitions into high-minor and major leagues.

And we further know that he was on a highly regarded indy team in 1946. The question then is whether, as Gadfly suggests, Easter couldn't get out of war work without being drafted anyway.
   62. Mark Shirk (jsch) Posted: August 24, 2005 at 06:39 PM (#1569278)
I wasunder the assumption that he was playing NeL ball (or some near equivalent) in 1941. So he should deserve war credit. Prior to 1941 though, I tend to side with Sunny.
   63. sunnyday2 Posted: August 24, 2005 at 08:31 PM (#1569707)
Sorry, j, I'd forgotten about the car crash. But earlier in the same post Gad says Easter played for the Titaniums 1937 through 1941. A clarification here would help. I mean we're talking a whole 4 years of XC here, after somewhere in the range of 1/2 to 1 year of elite play!

And maybe I missed it, but do we have his NAL stats for 1941? He might have been in that car, but do we know he was a regular, a star, a contributor, a benchwarmer?
   64. Tiboreau Posted: August 25, 2005 at 12:38 AM (#1570400)
The question of Luke Easter pre-WWII baseball experience is taken up in paragraphs 3 through 9 of Gadfly's post #20.

To summarize, there are records of Easter playing for the St. Louis Titanium Giants from '37 to '41. The Giants, owned by the American Titanium Co., was the best baseball club in town, and part of the reason that the NAL never established a club in St. Louis. It included such players as Jesse Askew, Herb Bracken, and Sam Jethroe. It was while playing for the Giants in '41 that Jethroe (the driver) and Easter were involved in the team-related accident that resulted in Easter's broken foot (or leg).

IMO, Easter's situation is very similar to Dobie Moore's. Joining the Titanium Giants gave Easter an opportunity to not only play baseball for a reputable team, it also provided year-round stability and likely a better salary than what he would have received with the NAL or NNL. While I doubt that the Giants were as good as the Wreckers (who had their pick of players at a time when no stable Negro Leagues existed) they were able to recruit talented players and were competitive with the NAL teams (were a better draw than the NAL-aborted St. Louis Stars in '37, and went 6-0 against NAL teams in 1940).
   65. sunnyday2 Posted: August 25, 2005 at 03:14 AM (#1571050)
Tiboreau, thanks for the clarification. I was thinking the Titanium Giants and St. Louis Giants were different teams.

I agree that the question of giving credit for Easter's play with the TGs is analogous to Dobie Moore and the Wreckers. What is not analogous is the problem of WWII credit for Easter, since Dobie didn't take a break for WWI or any other reason.

And I still see Moore as a more unique and valuable talent, hitting like Easter (OK, less HR power, but similar BA) while playing SS.

Based on the revised/corrected MLEs in post #59:

V. 1 (1947-1959) = Career 248 Top Three 40-23-23 Top Five 116

Comps Cecil Cooper (total difference on three measures = 19), Phil Cavaretta (16) Harry Davis (16)

V. 2 (1947-1964) = 284/40-23-23/116

Comps Boog Powell (6) Ed Konetchy (8) Steve Garvey (18) Mickey Vernon (19)

V. 3 (1941-1964) with credit for one year of Giants and full war credit @ 13-18-23-23-23-23 (I made those up) = 407/40-23-23/132

Comps Cap Anson (35) Eddie Murray (52) Willie McCovey (57) Dan Brouthers (69) Roger Connor (72) Harmon Killebrew (73) Tony Perez (83)

Obviously 40-23-23 is a pretty weird peak, and 407 career but best 5 of just 132 is also a very difficult match. Anson only does it with the short season, but Eddie Murray isn't too far off. Some of you may see him as more of a Boog Powell or Cecil Cooper, however.

I personally would see him, with my WWII credit, at 325 but still at 40-23-23/116. That makes him more of a Vernon (26) Norm Cash (33) Orlando Cepeda (38) Keith Hernandez (42) Jake Beckley (44) Powell (47)

Ah, there is a good comp--Norm Cash, specifically with his 42-27-24. Or Powell will do. This is in terms of WS.

Easter's MLEs .280/.351/.480
Norm Cash .271/.374/.488/138
Boog Powell .266/.361/.462/134
Orlando Cepeda .297/.350/.499/130
Eddie Murray .287/.359/.476/130
   66. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: August 26, 2005 at 04:37 AM (#1574574)
WARNING: PURE AND UTTER MATH-ALCHEMY TO FOLLOW

OK, so I was thinking about Easter and the parabola, and, well, I don't know nuthin' about parabolic stuff.

But I know how to use excel to generate the slope of a line that passes through a bunch of points. So I took the WS values I'd generated and figured the slope for them, then ran that slope through to Easter's presumable peak, age 27. Then I ran the opposite slope downward from age 26 toward age 17, stopping when Easter's value turned negative.

Here's what I got.

year age  sfws
-------------------
1933 17   0.0
1934 18   0.0
1935 19   0.0
1936 20   5.2
1937 21  12.1
1938 22  18.1
1939 23  23.0
1940 24  27.0
1941 25  29.9
1942 26  31.9
1943 27  32.9
1944 28  31.9
1945 29  29.9
1946 30  27.0
++++++++++++++
1947 31  23.0
1948 32  40.0
1949 33  12.5
1950 34  22.9
1951 35  17.0
1952 36  23.1
1953 37   7.6
1954 38  17.3
1955 39  16.3
1956 40  20.8
1957 41  18.3
1958 42  22.5
1959 43   6.0
====================


MLE WS below the ++++ line. My math-alchemy above it. Figuring that 1941 seems to be the most early point with any documentation, as well as a year in which Easter injured himself part way through the year in a car accident, I think this could be shortened this way

year age  sfws
-------------------
1941 25  14.5
1942 26  31.9
1943 27  32.9
1944 28  31.9
1945 29  29.9
1946 30  27.0
++++++++++++++
1947 31  23.0
1948 32  40.0
1949 33  12.5
1950 34  22.9
1951 35  17.0
1952 36  23.1
1953 37   7.6
1954 38  17.3
1955 39  16.3
1956 40  20.8
1957 41  18.3
1958 42  22.5
1959 43   6.0
====================


Anyway, it's just one means of speculating on Easter's possible "missed" value and not meant as a definitive statement of any sort.
   67. Gadfly Posted: August 28, 2005 at 06:12 PM (#1579891)
Before work once again overwhelms my life, I got a chance to dig up some of my old research on Luke Easter.

The Major League careers of Easter and Sam Jethroe have some interesting parallels. Both men had their first full seasons in 1950. Both men had good Major League seasons in 1950 and 1951, but both also struggled mightly with injuries in each of the two years.

[Of course, both men also had to deal with the adjustment issue too, and were much better players than they seem just for that fact.]

When the Major Leagues first integrated, it was pretty much not possible to be black and be on the bench in the Majors. In other words, black players had to start or lose their Major League jobs.

Since both Easter (born 1915) and Jethroe (born 1917) were not able to begin their big league careers due to the color line until their mid-30s when players break down more, this 'start or begone' philosophy was especially devastating to their careers.

[Easter, in particular, played the 1950 season while recovering from his 1949 knee surgery; and then had enormous problems in 1951 with multiple knee and ankle injuries that basically reduced him to a crawl.]

Of course, this is one of the ironies of integration. A long-time star player is usually allowed time to recover from his injuries. In other words, his past performance gives him the benefit of the doubt. The Negro Leaguers, of course, had no such past record to rely on in times of trouble.

In any event, both Easter and Sam Jethroe started their third full Major League seasons, 1952, once again with injury problems. Easter had had off-season knee and ankle surgery. Jethroe had a growing intestinal absess in his gut.

Despite these injuries, both men had to play regularily to keep their jobs. Both men played poorly. Easter, playing basically on one leg, got into 63 games, hit .208 with a .385 SA, and was optioned (demoted) to the Minor Leagues on June 30, 1952.

[One Major League pitcher had an interesting comment on the state of Easter's health in early 1952. He remarked that he was afraid to throw at Easter anymore because Luke was so immobile from his injuries that he would not be able to get out of the way. The pitcher then added that, considering the way Easter was hitting, there really was no reason to deck him. Of course, the early Negro Leaguers in the Majors, got hit a lot and Easter lead the League in HBPs in 1950.]

Jethroe, playing the entire year in pain, got into an incredible (especially considering his physical condition) 151 games, hitting .232 and slugging .357, with 28 stolen bases. Jethroe's poor 1952 season, for all intents and purposes, ended his Major League career.

But Luke Easter's career, instead of continuing to track Jethroe's career, took a different path. Over the first half of the season, his legs had finally healed (in fact, Easter had started to hit right before his demotion, lifting his BA over .200). When he was demoted, Easter was, for the first time in his Major League career, relatively healthy.

[Of course, relatively is the key word. Easter was about to turn 37, had lost all his speed, and was playing on wrecked knees and ankles.]

In any case, Luke Easter reported to the Indian's triple-A club in July and started to crush the ball. In 17 games, Easter hit .340 with 6 home runs, and a .740 slugging average.

[Note: Gary A's post 53 on 1952 is correct except, for some reason, he credits Easter with 0 Home runs.]

The Indians recalled Easter and eventually gave him the 1B job back. In the second half of the 1952 season, the now healthy Easter played 64 games, hit .319 (69 hits in 216 AB), smashed 20 home runs, batted in 65 runs, and slugged .644.

The interesting question with Easter is always: 'What would the man have done if given a fair shot at the Majors?'

Well, in 1952, Easter played a total of 144 games between Triple-A and the Majors. The above numbers suggest that, if he had been healthy for the whole year, Easter would have hit something like:

144 G, 45 Home runs, 146 RBIs, .319 BA, .644 SA, with a probable OPS+ of about 175-180 in the Major Leagues.

At the age of 37 with wrecked knees and ankles and all his speed gone.

After this half season of grace, Easter would once again have leg problems, miss the first half of the 1953 season, hit .303 in the second half of 1953 but without his usual power; and then return to the Minors for good in 1954 where, oddly enough, he would remain healthy once again for many years.

I don't know how good Easter would have been in his career years of 1946 and 1948 if he had, as he would have if he had not been black, began his Major League career in 1937 or so and been healthy; but the word that comes to mind is: Ruthian.

Bill James was absolutely correct about Easter in his 2nd Historical Abstract and deserves all credit possible for seeing it.

[I still remember the first time I read it and thought: now everyone will know.]
   68. Gadfly Posted: August 28, 2005 at 06:21 PM (#1579924)
Whoops!

Going over the post and thread, I noticed two things:

One) I missed post 60 which corrected Gary A's post 53.

Two) Easter played 141 Games total in 1952, not 144 Games total as stated.

Of course, Easter probably missed two or three possible games just going down to the minors and coming back, so what the hell.
   69. Gadfly Posted: August 28, 2005 at 06:34 PM (#1579966)
To Sunnyday #63-

You asked the question about whether Easter was a starter or benchwarmer for the St. Louis Giants. I got a couple of box scores from 1939 and 1940. Easter was the starting 1B and clean-up hitter.
   70. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: August 24, 2006 at 09:29 PM (#2155613)
Just making sure this gets into his thread. Some of my questions about Easter's early years are a bit clarified by Gadfly's posts above and are probably important reading in getting him.

98. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: August 24, 2006 at 04:55 PM (#2155584)

Here's the thing about Luke Easter and the integration gang, from Sunny2:

So great black players ended up doing what Luke Easter did, having totally bizarre careers that cannot be analyzed the ordinary ways.

Elsewhere Sunny has said that we may not be exercising enough imagination with these guys.

This is a great stumbling block for me. For some reason it's easier to deal with Dobie Moore and his 3-5 years of military since his career is otherwise well documented and normal in every way. With Easter we've got lots of late-career MiL data, a couple injury-riddled MLB years, one or two NgL years, and lots of semi-pro years before that. How different is semi-pro from military? I'm completely serious here. I understand that the Wrickers wre facing better teams and were full of great players, but there's been mention that Easter may have been in the industrial leagues because during the war he had war-duty-type jobs. And before that, it may have been the nearest, bestest option for him. Not knowing the baseball scene in his area, and not really knowing which teams he played for and how competitive it was, it's not easy to asses it.

It's pretty clear that Easter didn't get a full shot in the big leagues. Lesser first basemen hung on for much longer with worse stats after their heydays. Even boefre that, Easter was carpet bombing the bleachers in the PCL before getting a half-year call up where he only played sporadically. If you want to argue the facts, he may have been blocked or something. But the truth is that in an integrated environment, not the factual environment of his actual team, he would have been in the league for 10 years at that juncture. Yes, ten years. He reached CLE at age 33. Imagine that a second. In his full seasons from age 34-36 he had OPS+ of 121-124-141 before slumping to 119 at age 38 in 68 games at 37.

After he left the majors as a 38 year old, he went into the PCL, AA, INT and just kept hitting homer after homer for years. He had 4 30+ homer years in AAA AFTER leaving Cleveland. And remember this is a time when the best 1B in the AL is someone like Skowron who was good not great.

Here's his AVG/OPB/SLG/HR from age 38-43
YEAR AGE LG     AVG OBP SLG HR
-------------------------------
1954  38 IL/PCL 315 396 568 22 (partial season in CLE)
1955  39 AA     283 353 545 30  
1956  40 IL     306 379 578 35
1957  41 IL     279 348 562 40
1958  42 IL     307 379 600 38
1959  43 IL     262 328 475 22 


There's more but it's all big decline stuff. I think there's a lot of meaning here. I converted these seasons at .90/.81 for AVG/SLG, no park factors. The OPS+s come out to

1954 121
1955 106
1956 118
1957 106
1958 119
1959 82

I projected him into the AL in 1954 and NL thereafter because that's just tHe protocol I follow. Here's how his MLEs compare to his position.
YEAR LG OPS posOPS posOPS+
--------------------------
1954 AL 808  781    103
1955 NL 785  788    100
1956 NL 818  783    104
1957 NL 777  732    106
1958 NL 837  742    113
1959 NL 688  725     94 


As you can see his AAA performance, discounted at 10%, indicates that Easter was still at worst an average 1B, probably a little better...from ages 37-42. Guys, this doesn't require much imagination, he was supremely powerful and talented, and he just killed the AAA leagues into his forties.

Is there any reason to believe he wouldn't have been a star soon-to-be star at age 23? In 1939, when he may or manot have been playing semi-pro ball? I have notes, presumably from gadly, that he was on the STL Titanium Giants, whatever that was, and that he was either in military industrial leagues 1942 through 1945 or just working (and not playing for Uncle Sam). Immediatly after the war he breaks out, posting a big but undocumented year for the independent Cincy Crescents then having a good year in the NNL in 1947 with a .311/.388/.513 line in a league hitting .273 with a .385 SLG, 15 points lower than the NL SLG. Undiscounted that's a .530 SLG and in the top five. Discounted it works out to 475ish. Then for dessert he has this line in the 1948 NNL: 363/440/721...and does even better in the PRWL. That NNL line comes in a league hitting .276/.390. That's the rough equivalent of slugging .751 in the NL that year or, with discount, .676. Wow. THEN he hits .363/.453/.722 in the PCL before his cuppa in 1949.

Guys, why am I struggling with Luke Easter? All the data we've got is from age 30 on. Translated it suggests that he was hitting around .279/.350/.485 from ages 30-43 with a 122 OPS+. His relative averages from 30 onward are 104/102/119 in 1645 games. I ran these through the SBE's sorting features to see what sort of players were like him.

RELATIVE AVERAGES
NAME                          G      AVG      OBP      SLG 
----------------------------------------------------------
Luke Easter (MLE)          1685      104      102      119

Tony Perez                 1770      105      103      117   
Dave Winfield              1751      107      106      120   
Gil Hodges                 1147      102      105      117   
Yogi Berra                 1067      103      101      116   
Fred Lynn                  1065      101      105      116   
Joe Adcock                 1051      104      103      121   
George Foster              1043      100      100      117   
Ben Oglivie                1021      103      104      114   
George Hendrick             972      106      101      114   
Ryne Sandberg               930      107      104      116   
Doug DeCinces               891      101      102      115   
Mike Piazza                 863      107      107      122   
George Scott                854      103      102      116   
Donn Clendenon              824      101       99      114   
Orlando Cepeda              736      105      102      117   
Tilly Walker                735      100      100      120 


Perez and Winfield. That's awfully damn close to HOM territory. Both Perez and Winfield are likley to be divisive candidates, but they will get lots of votes. How likely is it that a guy whose career (by my MLE method, using actual playing data, not wishcast stuff) compares favorably to theirs and appears much better than nubmerous other HOMish types post age-30.

Guys, why can't I pull the tirgger on this guy? What is it about having half a career that makes me so hesitant to go ahead with him? Joe Dimino, how come you can do it and I can't? What's anyone else think?


100. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: August 24, 2006 at 05:25 PM (#2155607)

sorry for the sloppy typing in that Easter post. Also I think the MLEs quoted there are slightly different than the ones in my previous MLES. I noted an error in the others inthe 1949 season that was throwing off the totals.

Actually, now that I look at it, I didn't update him for the new NgL league numbers in 1947-1948. His OPS+ stays the same, his new averages are 278/349/486 for age 30 onward.
   71. Mark Shirk (jsch) Posted: August 24, 2006 at 11:25 PM (#2155749)
I guess my problem with Easter is that we have to reconstruct his 20's with little or no data. I have a problem voting for a guy on that evidence. I know that it sounds unfair because had he been white he would most likely have had a normal career, WWII service notwithstanding, but I have some trouble recreating a player's 20's with no info. This isn't war credit, this isn't Cravath or Arlett.
   72. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: August 25, 2006 at 01:37 AM (#2155915)
Well, it is war credit jschmeagol - without the war do you still think he's playing semipro ball at that time? It's absolutely war credit, IMO.

I've had him as high as #3 or #4 (just a spot behind Cravath), but I've dropped him back a bit because I was probably overrating him at that point.

But he's still in my top 25, and will likely be back on my ballot very soon, once we elect a few backloggers. He's a much stronger candidate than the group has given him credit for. He's clearly better than Ben Taylor, IMO.
   73. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: August 25, 2006 at 02:21 AM (#2155973)
Well, it is war credit

I agree. As noted above, in 1941 he was on his region's strongest black team of the era, so it seems unlikely that without a war-time work conscription he wouldn't have been in the NNL/NAL very very quickly. Realistically it is war credit. Especially considering his age, his subsequent performance, and the fact that Sapperstein gobbled him up for his ill-fated Cincy team. The question of how/how-much to credit him is problematic however.
   74. Mark Shirk (jsch) Posted: August 25, 2006 at 02:54 PM (#2156430)
Well it doesn't work quite like war credit because as far as I can tell we don't know exactly how good he was immediately before and immediately after the war. Plus, while the war may take up four years of his 20's, what about the other 6? They certainly aren't war credit.

I have Easter in my top 50, but I certainly want to see some data before I pull the trigger and make that top 10-20.
   75. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: August 25, 2006 at 03:13 PM (#2156465)
But the war kept him from being discovered at the age where that normally would have happened. So by the time the war ends, he's an 'old' prospect and that gives him much less room for error.

For me, that stretches his war credit well past the war.

I think of war credit as, 'how does this guy's career look without the war', not; 'what the player would have done from 1942-45'.
   76. Mark Shirk (jsch) Posted: August 25, 2006 at 04:37 PM (#2156558)
Well then it definitely is not like regular war credit then, it is something more. And we still don't have much data at all about how he played.

My major problem isn't that it isnt' like war credit so much as I am having trouble constructing a superstar 20's (which he would need to make my ballot)without any data.
   77. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: August 25, 2006 at 05:01 PM (#2156587)
Yeah, all we got is Gadfly's tip that Easter was batting fourth and playing first for the STLTG in 1939 and 1940. That's as far back as we can take it. We have no numbers. You'll see in one of my posts above that I extrapolated based on the slope of the back end of his career, but it's purely out of thin air. We could run some comps and see how 10-20 of the most similar players from this 30s fared in their 20s. We could probably find more sophisticated career path analysis (BP did some by-position stuff within the last year in one of N Silver's columns). None of it will have data about Easter. None.

So we're at that point that we've utterly dreaded. Up to now, we've concluded that, well, things are fine with the black integration-era players because, well, we just haven't got the data, and, well, we're a data driven group, and, you know, if we make a big leap and go for Easter, is it inconsistent with our previous selections.

I don't have a firm answer. But let me ask this. When does data stop being the coefficient in an equation and start being the food for analysis? If we're plugging MLEs for Easter into our systems and getting an answer that says "no," is this because we're not employing the data correctly? Or is it because our tolerance for risk is tiny. Dick Allen's not real risky. His hitting stats are fantastic, and he's a great peak candidate, and there's a big hunk of people in the world think he's worth inducting in the Coop, let alone a data-driven group like ours. Luke Easter is risky. There's the risk that Gadfly gave us bad information. That we're misinterpreting his pre-wartime activities. That my MLEs are ill-constructed. That the injuries were in fact so debilitating that he couldn't have survived at the big league level.

But most importantly, there's the risk that we will be viewed as having taken a dangerous plunge into wishcasting. We've backed our selections with all kinds of consensus on what makes players great, WS, WARPs 1-2-3, EQAs, OPSes, counting stats, pennants added. That's stuff we do good on. The MLEs show a little imagination on our part as we reconstruct careers, but it's mostly liner thinking. Luke Easter demands that we do something a lot bigger, and the current discussion of his candidacy and those of Clarkson, Williams, Wilson, and others is kicking us in the butt to finally make a decision about whether it's good enough to proceed the way we've always done it, or else to take a radical step and process this/these candidate(s) in riskier new ways.

Easter especially is a unique case. But it's something like Dickey Pearce's in that we had little data on the true extent of Dickey's accomplishments, talent, and total play, but we chose to elect him with an amalgam of imagination and numbers. Easter asks us to take a much bigger leap. I don't know what to do, I'm just framing the question. What do we do?
   78. sunnyday2 Posted: August 25, 2006 at 05:34 PM (#2156612)
I see Easter as comparable (not nec. in the usual sense) to Mize--and by that I mean that they are power hitting 1B of about the same age. There really is no other comp for Easter in terms of power, position, age and longevity that I can think of. Well, maybe Greenberg. Mize was born 1913 and played in the bigs 1936-53, Easter was born in 1915 and played at all 1937-59, Greenberg 1911 and 1930-47.

OK, so is he comp in the usual sense of the word?

OPS+

Mize 162-71-72-74-73-53-61-W-W-W-85-60-56-~11-43*-2-12*-1*
Easter ?-?-?-?-?-W-W-W-W-?-111#-75#-24##-25-23-44-11+-21+-6+-18+-6+-19+-(82)+

W = DNP, WWII; * = <100 games; # = NeL MLE; ## = NeL and ML NLE; + = MiL MLE

The key here is where we have comparable data, that is where we have comparable ML data by age and for ?100 ML games, which is for age 35-36 only.

Mize 156 and ~111 in ~1170 PAs
Easter 122-125-144 in >1600 PAs

I include 3 seasons for Easter because his birthday was in August vs. Mize in January. Mize IOW was 35.5 and 36.5 in those 2 seasons, Easter was 35, 36 and 37 in his 3. And truthfully I wanted to get the 144 in there. If you want some additional perspective, I could add in Mize's age 37 season at 143 but in just 90 games and ~300 PAs or his age 38 at 102 in 370 PAS or his age 34 at 160. Or just include them all:

Mize age 34-38 116-56-11-43*-2
Easter age 35-38 123-25-44-20*
(OK, Greenberg age 35-36 160-31)

(* = <100 games)

It is not impossible that Easter coulda been Johnny Mize (he appears to have been better at age 36-37-38) or Hank Greenberg (comparable at age 36), though it is of course also not proven that he was and he probably was not. I said above that he was more Dolph Camilli, but since Camilli was washed up at age 35 and Easter clearly was not, that the real Luke Easter might be = to Camilli + Easter's ML career, which conjures these comps.

Easter (proj.*) 8755 PA/.276/.380/.490/132 (i.e. Camilli + Easter*)
Adcock 7217/.277/.337/.485/125
Ennis 7883/.284/.340/.472/117
Hodges 7998//273/.359/.487/119
Sievers 7358/.267/.354/.475/124
Slaughter 9001/.300/.382/.453/122

Mize 7500 PA/.312/.397/.562/157
Greenberg ~6000 PA/.313/.412/.605/157

Camilli + Easter is not much of a comp with Mize or Greenberg, especially considering Camilli missed only 1945 during WWII while Mize and Greenberg missed 3 years (the Slaughter listed also missed 3 years to WWII).

Clearly it matters if you think he was Mize or Camilli for the period before 1949. But if Camilli, he still rates ahead of the tier of "sluggers" called Sievers, Ennis, Hodges and Adcock, for whatever that is worth, and ahead of Camilli because he played to a more advanced age. But Gadfly says Camilli is a seriously undervalued comp.

So there. Nothing in the slightest way conclusive, just thinkin' out loud.
   79. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: August 25, 2006 at 05:45 PM (#2156622)
I wrote this in a different thread some time ago but having seen Luke Easter play both in the AL and later on in Buffalo he is a dead ringer for Ryan Howard. Not as bulky but in just about everything else: build, swing, movements around first, speed (lack thereof).

When I saw Howard in person for the first time I thought Easter had been reincarnated. Kind of spooky if you want to know the truth.
   80. Mike Webber Posted: August 25, 2006 at 06:35 PM (#2156666)
I like to think I have a good imagination, for example I imagine every other week that I am somehow qualified to help pick who should be in the Hall of Merit and turn in a ballot. But the process of imagining what type of career Luke Easter might have had is beyond me.

I just want anyone who thinks Luke Easter is a top 15 candidate based on his major league production at ages 34-36 to check out Mickey Vernon from age 35-37.

Vernon got ZERO votes last year. He missed his 26 and 27 seasons due to the war, and still played in 2400 major league games. Mickey won a couple of batting titles, has some nice gray ink, and so-so black ink scores despite playing in Griffith Stadium.

AND NO ONE THOUGHT VERNON WAS WORTHY OF A SINGLE VOTE!

I know, Luke Easter got screwed by the war and integration - which squeezed him on both ends. It’s not fair.

Lots of things aren’t fair. Unfair stuff happened to Vernon too, and 100 other guys that might have been HOM.

I just think that if you are honest with yourself, you will admit that you can’t possibly know if Easter had been born 20-30 years later if he would have been Dave Winfield or if he would have been Erubiel Durazo.

And I’ll be honest with myself, and admit that I might be so far wrong about Easter that my voting privileges should be suspended.
   81. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: August 25, 2006 at 07:21 PM (#2156721)
That's exactly what I'm asking myself/the electorate, Mike. How far is far enough with Easter? How much imagination is too much? One way we've been considering the question is like this:

a) We know there's a dearth of black guys from the integration era, the number probably 2-5
b) We know there's no reason that there shouldn't be HOMable blacks from that era
c) So they are out there in the backlog or the ether and we're missing them
d) And so, it must mean that we're just looking at the the guys we know about wrongly
e) And so, stretching what we know about them to fit the issue has some probability of yielding the presumably correct or desirable result.
f) And then so thereby not electing someone like, oh, Rizzuto/Fox/Keller (or maybe someone later like Lou Brock?) would be acceptable because we're pretty damned sure that to be fair to every era and constituency of the HOM it's better to take the chance that we're right about the guys integration left behind.

The further you get from (a) the more dicey it gets. But the chain of reasoning is at the same time irresistible in another way because it also gives us an opportunity to innovate on the formula, to reach for something other Halls or analysts have eschewed. It's dangerous in a way.

Halls of Fame and Merit are black/white, one/zero, right/wrong propositions, and you hate to be wrong about a guy either way. Which is what rightfully keeps us hung up. In a way, what guys like The Easter Gang or The Early Ones or The Early NgL Ones (note my exclusion of World Warriors) beg for is some kind of special designation, a kind of way we can not elect them but be agnostic about them without exactly backlogging them---instead saying something like "they stand out from the pack...we think" or "guys we don't have enough info to accurately evaluate but we have a big-time sneaking suspicion about."

Maybe at the end of the project we could make a list of these players, the ones whose cases are so compelling yet incomplete that with a change in the available info we'd be able to make a more conclusive evaluation.
   82. sunnyday2 Posted: August 25, 2006 at 08:09 PM (#2156758)
>guys we don't have enough info to accurately evaluate

And of course there are precedents for these guys: Dickey Pearce, Frank Grant, Home Run Johnson.... It seems intuitive that it would be unnecessary to do so for more recent periods, but 1945-55 (for black guys) seems to me to be more like 1865 than 1965.
   83. sunnyday2 Posted: August 25, 2006 at 10:08 PM (#2156825)
PS. Excellent analysis, Doc.
   84. sunnyday2 Posted: September 02, 2006 at 08:39 PM (#2165922)
I have been looking at Easter some more, in light of the fact that the generation of black ballplayers who peaked and/or primed during the integration of the MLs is grossly underrepresented in the HoF and HoM. It is clear to me that if such players had had the chance for a more or less normal career--either in the NeLs (as their predecessors had) or the MLs (as the successors did)--we would have more than 1/4 as many as the earlier and later generations.

It also seems clear enough to me that among Easter, Don Newcombe, Artie Wilson, Marvin Williams, Bus Clarkson, Ray Dandridge et al, Easter is the one with the most compelling story to tell. Well, Newcombe, too, but among position players Easter is the guy who would appear to have been the most likely superstar.

And it seems that the ML establishment would more or less agree. I mean, he was one of the guys who got a fair shot in the years after Jackie, Doby, Campy and Monte but before Mays, Banks, Aaron and that generation. Willard Brown was born the same year, but it was Easter who got a shot. Was Easter better than Brown? Who knows? Brown got his shot in 1947 at age 32, when he probably was a vastly more well known commodity than Easter. But in 1948 Easter dominated the NeLs and in 1949 it was Easter, not Brown, who was brought up by the Cleveland Indians. I'm satisfied that Easter was a better hitter at his prime, it's just that Brown has a more or less conventional line while Easter's is just bizarre.

We have Easter's numbers from 1948 onward, then, and through 1962, in the NeL, the ML and AAA, and we have routinely been projecting players from numbers in NeL and AAA for decades now in the HoM. Over that period he earns (MLEs + ML record) 218 WS with a peak of 40-23-23. I don't see how any of this is controversial. We KNOW Easter was that kind of player from age 32-42.

Then what? Well, I don't buy into any MLE credit after age 42.

But! His 40 WS season comes in 1948--the first year for which we have a more or less conventional record to base MLEs on. If we accept that (and I do) then what is the likelihood that he was not a ML caliber player in 1947? Zero. And he was in the NeL in 1947, I just don't happen to know what his record was, other than that according to Gad he hit >.300. Doc has projected him at 23 WS for that season and in light of his performance in 1948, I also cannot see this as controversial. So now he's a 241 WS player with a 40-23-23 peak.

So, once again, if he was a 23-40 WS player in 1947-48, what about 1946. Well, he was playing on apparently a very good barnstorming team, and is reputed to have hit 74 home runs. Against whom? I don't know. But I know he was playing an elite caliber of ball, and he was on the verge of superstardom (i.e. 40 WS two years hence). Doc gives him 27 WS. I could quibble about that. I could live with 17, but even now he's a 258 WS player with a 40-23-23 peak.

Then, continuing backward, what to do with the war years? Well, now I have to leap back to 1937-41. He was again playing with a very high caliber team, batting clean-up no less. And this was a team that played and won 6 games, against no losses, against NeL teams. Doc gives him potentially 5-12-18-23-27 WS for those years. I think that's a bit much and Doc himself says that 1941 is in fact most likely the date on which he arrived as a ML caliber player and in that scenario reduces him to 14.5 WS.

Of course, by now he is 25 years old. Under normal circumstances a guy like that might NEVER get a shot in the MLs. But according to MLEs, if he's a 14.5 WS player in 1941 and a 17 WS player (conservatively) in 1946, then just as clearly he's a guy who qualified for WWII credit.

Putting it all together, I come up with Easter, most likely case as follows:

Year Age WS
1941 25 14.5
1942 26 16
1943 27 16
1944 28 16
1945 29 16
1946 30 17
1947 31 23
1948 32 40
1949 33 12 injury
1950 34 23
1951 35 17
1952 36 23
1953 37 8 injury
1954 38 17
1955 39 16
1956 40 21
1957 41 18
1958 42 22

Total 18 yrs 331

None of this is the least bit inconsistent with his record from age 30 on, where Doc suggests he looks a lot like Tony Perez or Dave Winfield, or even his ML record alone for ages 33-38, wherein he looks a lot like Mize, Greenberg, Foxx or (yes, Mike W.) Mickey Vernon (I had suggested Vernon along with Mize et al way back in #4 of this thread).

So I have finally landed on 331 WS, with an odd 40-23-23 3-year peak (but not unlike Norm Cash's odd peak), and 131 for 5 years.

331 WS career--McGwire 342, Perez 349 and Allen 342, Will Clark 331
40-23-23 peak--Cash 41-27-24; McGriff and Bottomley 83
131 for 5--Greenberg 135, Cepeda 130, Cash 130, Sisler 135

For my taste, I guess I would have to see Easter as among the top 3 1B candidates--Cepeda and Cash being the others. It is not obvious that Easter was better than they were, but there is plenty to suggest that he probably would have been, given a normal opportunity to build his skills and his career. That's an "if," a hypothetical, to be sure. And it is slightly (I will repeat, slightly) on the optimistic side of the range. But among my top 33 consideration set, that just means he joins Roush, Minoso, Keller, C. Jones, D. Moore, Doyle, Doerr, Hack, Rizzuto, E. Howard, Lundy, Waddell, Joss, H. Smith and Redding in having some adjustments in the record.

So now he is close to my ballot after not being in my top 50 pre-re-eval.
   85. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: February 18, 2007 at 05:41 PM (#2299660)
I decided to tackle Luke Easter again. Since the last time I tried looking at him, I've read a couple things (one thanks to Chris Cobb) that have offered another alternative for looking backwards from Easter's arrival in the NgLs to see what sort of possible credit scenarios are out there.

Let's start in chrono order. We know that in 1941 Easter was playing very high level ball and was injured in a car accident with Sam Jethroe. He was 25. I take that as my starting point, the earliest point at which a reasonable case can be made for Easter to receive credit. After that he worked in the defense/wartime industries for several years during the war. Then he has an undocumented year in the NgLs, then finally reaches Homestead in 1947 at age 31, where we pick up his trail. As we all know, he hits everywhere he lands from then on.

MY METHOD THIS TIME
Now, previously I just used a sloped line based on Easter's own performance in the second half of his career. That's not the most robust model. However since then I've read two things that are useful:
-A player aging study by Tangotiger (covering 1919-1998 or so)
-A study of player aging by position by Nate Silver (covering post-WW2)

Tango's is more robust, Silver's comes out more conservative and is taylored to position. So I went with the more conservative Silver study. Both studys look at matters in terms of % of peak performance, with peak coming at age 26.5 or so.

To figure Easter's peak, I first translated all of his stats into a 4.5 r/g, neutral park context using the Bill James method elaborated in the Willie Davis comment of the NHBA, and using RC tech version 3. I used his MLB stats to project HPB and GIDPs onto seasons where I didn't have that info; I used MiL and MlB stats to project his BB/AB for seasons without; when needed, I prorated short seasons by regressing the performance in that season 50% against his career averages. Still with me? Now I had a full career neutral projection for him, and I figured his rc/out for each year. To estimate his peak, I compared Silver's aging patterns to Easter's seasonal rc/out, averaging the seasons together to get a smoother line. Then I eyeballed a value. I decided on .350 R/out as his peak level performance. It's a conservative figure since he approached it at .337 in his mid 30s. Once I established the peak performance level, I then figured the other 25-30 seasons by using Silver's table and simply multiplying as needed.

However, in looking at Easter's actual career, I noticed a fair amount of variability in his season to season performance, so I decided to include more variability in the age 25-30 performance. Actually two kinds of variability: performance and durability. Let's talke about durability. He averaged 338 outs per year after age 30, varying by an average of 54 outs per year. To model that variance (in the simplest way), I did the following for each year except his peak year:
-I generated a random number from 0-1.
-if it was less than .5, I multiplied it times -1.
-if it was greater than .5, I multpilied it times 1.
-if it was .5, then 0.
-multiplied that decimal times 54 outs
-added the result to 338.

I did force the total result to be match the average, just to stay within reasonableness. Then I did the same exact thing with his performance, forcing it to remain lower than his peak and within an appropriate level of reasonableness.

Once I'd done this, I projected Easter's 25-30 seasons into my neutralized 4.5 run environment to get a baseline projection. Then I projected him back into a neutral AL environment for all of his seasons based on the full-scale neutral projetions (which means, using the league's R/G but in a theoretical neutral park on a theoretically .500 team).

Finally I did a WS analysis. Previously I've exclusively used the short-form method, but I've been tinkering with a new (and better?) way to do it using aspects of the long-form method:
-figure the team's marginal offense
-figure the player's marginal offense
-find the ratio of player to team, times three, times [team wins*48]
-figure Easter's FWS/OWS and apply to his newly figured WS.

I left Easter's full-season Cleveland WS alone, figuring it was best not to tamper.

In my next post, the resutls.
   86. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: February 18, 2007 at 06:59 PM (#2299683)
OK, here's what I came up with

YEAR  AGE WS
-------------
1941  25  15 (car accident season)
1942  26  31
1943  27  29
1944  28  32
1945  29  30
1946  30  27
1947  31  21
1948  32  30
1949  33  19
1950  34  23
1951  35  17
1952  36  24
1953  37   8
1954  38  22
1955  39  14
1956  40  21
1957  41  20
1958  42  24
=============
         
407 (25-42)
         
342 (25-39

Those 40-plus seasons are nice years. He certainly had not lost much at bat. He was said to be quite hobbled, so the question is whether his lack of mobility meant he couldn't play MLB ball. My answer is to ask Frank Thomas. Those 40+ years look very much like Thomas' near-40 2006 season in terms of their total value by WS, and Thomas is not only big and slow, but also hobbled by foot and ankle issues to boot.

If you felt like you wanted to whack 'em, that's your call. i stopped at 42 because he went downhill quick thereafter, but I've broken out stats for the "trough-age 42" and through-age 39" scenario.

Stats for 25-42
.291 avg: 2317/7952
.368 obp: 804 BB (157 hpb)
.542 slg: 4312 TB
.910 ops
1535 RC
7.03 rc/g

Stats for 25-39
.295 avg: 1919/3536
.373 obp: 664 BB (128 hpb)
.545 slg: 3536 TB
.918 ops
1270 RC
7.17 rc/g


Remember these estimates are mostly neutral parks with some Cleveland mixed in (which in Easter's years played as a very slight pitcher's park). To check myself, I compared his performance with other players of the era. His RC/G would be comparable to the following players with 3000 PA from 1941-1958:
15   Larry Doby                 7.23 
(    Luke Easter---25-39        7.17)  
16   Tommy Henrich              7.04   
(    Luke Easter---25-42        7.03)  
17   Hank Aaron                 6.96   
18   Minnie Minoso              6.90   
19   Dixie Walker               6.89   
20   Al Rosen                   6.87   
21   Enos Slaughter             6.85   
22   Ernie Banks                6.76 


From the SBE, by the way.

SLG3000 PA
5    Duke Snider                .557   
6    Ernie Banks                .550   
7    Ralph Kiner                .548   
8    Joe DiMaggio               .548   
(    Luke Easter---25-39        .542)
9    Hank Aaron                 .543   
(    Luke Easter---25-42        .542)
10   Eddie Mathews              .541   
11   Johnny Mize                .528   
12   Charlie Keller             .522 



OBP3000 PA
41   Nick Etten                 .374   
42   Bob Nieman                 .373   
43   Hank Thompson              .372   
(    Luke Easter---25-39        .372)
44   Al Smith                   .372   
45   Vic Wertz                  .371   
46   Jackie Jensen              .371   
47   Stan Spence                .370   
48   Johnny Temple              .370   
49   Johnny Hopp                .370  
(    Luke Easter---25-42        .368)
50   Dale Mitchell              .368   
51   Al Kaline                  .368   
52   George Kell                .367   
53   Eddie Joost                .367   
54   Eddie Lake                 .367   
55   Bill Nicholson             .366   
56   Whitey Kurowski            .366   
57   Tommy Holmes               .366   
58   Pee Wee Reese              .366   
59   Hank Aaron                 .365   
60   Bobby Doerr                .364 


AVG3000 PA

Dom DiMaggio               .298     
Nellie Fox                 .297     
Johnny Hopp                .297     
Lou Boudreau               .297     
Augie Galan                .297     
Don Mueller                .296     
(Luke Easter---21-39       .296)
Jeff Heath                 .294     
Bob Nieman                 .293     
Ernie Banks                .293     
Johnny Mize                .293     
Al Dark                    .293     
(Luke Easter---21-42       .291)
Frankie Baumholtz          .290     
Ferris Fain                .290     
Red Schoendienst           .290     
Yogi Berra                 .288     
Mickey Vernon              .288     
Johnny Temple              .288     
Bob Johnson                .288 


Finally, RC

RC3000 PA
1    Stan Musial                2316   
2    Ted Williams               2076   
(    Luke Easter---25-42        1535)
3    Mickey Vernon              1338
(    Luke Easter---25-39        1270)   
4    Duke Snider                1204   
5    Ralph Kiner                1203 


The picture drawn by this version of Easter is pretty clear: he plays forever, he hits with lots of power, he draws a few walks, but also gets plunked a bit, he hits into lots of GIDPs (a not-quite Ricean/Singletonian 215). A name that continaully pops up on these leader boards is the pre-1B Ernie Banks. I think it's a great comparison. Banks hit for good power, maintained a decent average, and walked enough to be helpful in the OBP department. Both appear to be sluggers with slightly better than average secondary skills, and both played forever. This analysis suggests that Easter maintained his skills a little longer, that his power was not park-aided, but that he probably had a smaller peak. And, of course, he played 1B the whole way.

In terms of previous projections of his early days, let's compare them. Here's this one:

YEAR  AGE WS
-------------
1941  25  15
1942  26  31
1943  27  29
1944  28  32
1945  29  30
1946  30  27 


here's a scenario Sunny2 suggested was plausible just a couple posts above:
1941 25 14.5 
1942 26 16
1943 27 16
1944 28 16
1945 29 16
1946 30 17 


My last attempt:

year age  sfws
-------------------
1941 25  14.5
1942 26  31.9
1943 27  32.9
1944 28  31.9
1945 29  29.9
1946 30  27.0 


The one I attempted earlier gave similar results to the current version, though the current one introduces more variability, but not too too much. Since the current one is based on published research, I'm putting more stock in it than in my previous try at this, even if the results are similar. I think Sunny's coming in too low, unless he believes that Easter was injured every year for 30% of the season, or that Easter had a most unusual career arc. either are possibly but they don't strike me as terribly likely.

Just to recap:
-This is based on someone else's published research, and is the more conservative of two competing pieces of research on the same topic.
-It is based on a very deep pool of data about Easter (more than ten seasons worth).
-The translations of his known play are based on other published methods in the BJNHBA and Win Shares.
-The park factors I estimated for the PCL, AA, and IL are all based on regression models that a well-informed member of our electorate has told me are solid.
-The extrapolation of seasons is no longer a straight-line g/tmg, but now includes regression to the player's career norms.

I could have screwed something up in the application, but I think the support structures of this projection are really strong.
   87. sunnyday2 Posted: February 18, 2007 at 07:14 PM (#2299690)
Doc, I was being conservative I guess. Injured? No. Just using my normal method for WWII which is to take the average of 1941 and 1946--and I said that knowing relatively little about 1946 I would conservatively use 17 rather than 27--so therefore he gets a string of 16s through the war years.

At 331 career WS and the admittedly unlikely peak of 40-23-23 he is bouncing around #25ish on my ballot. With your numbers he would be top 5 easily.

Where is he headed on your ballot?
   88. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: February 18, 2007 at 07:24 PM (#2299694)
Where is he headed on your ballot?

Great question. I have to run him through the system with the new information. I am also concerned about the war years and how to appropriately credit them, so I may well end up damping them down just a bit. I'll let you know when I figure it out!
   89. Tiboreau Posted: February 18, 2007 at 08:27 PM (#2299716)
From Gadfly's post #22:

Easter grew up in St. Louis, attending the same high school as Quincy Trouppe. However, unlike Trouppe, when Easter came of age there was no top Negro League team operating out of St. Louis. The top Negro League team in St. Louis area was a team called the St. Louis Giants or St. Louis Titanium Giants.

This team was sponsered by the American Titanium Company. Basically, the players worked for the company, getting full time (i.e. year round)employment, with lots of time off to practice and compete for the company team. Easter was on this team, by my sources from 1937 to 1941. [However, as I have never researched the St. Louis Argus, it is possible that Easter played for the team before 1937 and during the war too.]


Dr. Chaleeko, what led to your decision to start Easter's MLEs with 1941, at age 25? Do you consider his prior 4 years with the Giants to be development years?
   90. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: February 18, 2007 at 08:59 PM (#2299724)
OK, now I have my answer.

I started by figuring Easter's career in my system twice, once using ages 25-39, once 25-42. The result was that he looked a lot like Eddie Murray.

However, I realized when I did so that I was counting the war-work years as regular playing years. For certain career-based categories, I count them, for shorter-term dominance-based categories I don't (for instance I don't award credit for having an MVP-type year for war-credit years). So I went back and looked at those years. My initial inclination was to simly do my usual surrounding-years jazz. But given the uncertainty of his pre-1941 career, I felt like that would shortchange him too much. In addition, a big piece of my workup of him was to establish a rough sense of his peak value...and the big peak year was 1942, right in the middle of the credit years. So I compromised. I haven't before, and I probably won't again.
-I gave him peak credit for his 1942 season, 31 WS (1 higher than any other non-war season).
-For 1942-1945, I figured the average of 1941-1942 and 1946-1947, then added one season's worth of his career average (22 a year), divided by five, and came out with 23. So, the war years now go: 31, 23, 23, 23.
-I only used ages 25-39.

When I pumped that into my sytem, I ended up with Easter being slightly subborderline. The in/out line at 1B is around 33 Keltner Points. I'm showing Easter with 24 points, making him similar to Mattingly (27), Taylor (26), Konetchy (23), and Beckley (23). He's about the 24th best eligible 1B. He's just 4 points behind Tony Perez in my system, which is very, very close. In case you are wondering, if I used just 23, 23, 23, 23 insetaed of 31, 23, 23, 23, then Easter drops to 22 points, just below Beckley and Konetchy. Using his 25-42 years would push him up around Perez, maybe even by him.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Luke Easter is probably more hurt by the interruptive aspects of the late-period Negro Leagues than anyone, except maybe Marv Williams. His case, Clarkson's too, is so close to the in/out line, that even one more documented season or season of normal play could propel him into the HOMable area (which is currently slots 1-17 at each position). Where it differs from Bus in that Clarkson had more of his career documented. All or nearly all of Clarkson's early years are on file, but none of Easter's are. If we had a single pre-1941 year where we could see the shape of his performance, I think we would feel very differently, and we'd probably be extending him credit back into the late 1930s. After all 25 is a very late start for an outstanding player.
   91. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: February 18, 2007 at 09:03 PM (#2299725)
Dr. Chaleeko, what led to your decision to start Easter's MLEs with 1941, at age 25? Do you consider his prior 4 years with the Giants to be development years?

It's the year of the accident, which means his first year of possible top-level play. Ultimatlely when I made that decision back in the day, it seemed to be what everyone thought was the most reasonable start point in light of the information we have. Does anyone think we should start the MLE process earlier? I've already got the numbers set up to run, and I can post them up if people think his pre-1941 play is in the realm.
   92. baudib Posted: February 19, 2007 at 12:37 PM (#2299920)
I hate to rain on the parade here, especially since I think Easter is such a fascinating person, but while reading this thread, I thought of five players immediately who could be compared to Easter, none of whom are Hall of Famers.

Darrell Evans, Cy Williams, Hank Sauer and Joe Adcock were all vaguely simmilar players who had very good (in terms of HR/AB and OPS+) stretches from either ages 34-37 or ages 35-38.

Adcock
35-38
OPS+ 107-139-105-167, 32 HR per 550 AB

Williams
35-38
OPS+ 135-142-135-158 30 HR per 550 AB

Sauer
34-37
OPS+ 113, 143, 110, 140 34 HR per 550 AB

I'm sure everyone is overly familiar with Evans' career arc by now

There's also Rico Carty, who was a different type of hitter, but he was a tremendous hitter in his late 30s, and an even better hitter in his 20s, but missed the Hall.
   93. sunnyday2 Posted: February 19, 2007 at 12:46 PM (#2299922)
Easter is quite different in the sense that his early years were different. Adcock and Cy and Sauer all had a fair opportunity to play as younger men--I mean, I know Sauer's story. He may have been misjudged, but by "fair opportunity" I mean he was judged for his talents. Misjudged, again, perhaps, but judged for his talents. Easter, like all black players from Cap Anson to Branch Rickey, was judged for the color of his skin.

Easter was also different than other black players in that during his prime there was no NeL in which he could have a more or less linear career. I could have said in fact that black players were judged for the color of their skin not just through 1947 but maybe through 1960. You still had obvious quotas and etc. that restricted opportunities.

And on top of everything else, his career was also interrupted by the war, as of course were a lot of careers.

This is not to say what Easter coulda/woulda done if he had had a fairer opportunity to build a record as a younger man. We don't know. We're just trying to make the best possible judgment of that based on rather scant evidence.
   94. DL from MN Posted: February 19, 2007 at 07:04 PM (#2300070)
My best judgement has Easter at 28th on my ballot. If I'm a little more optimistic he gets to 17th. That's pretty much the range I'm willing to place him. The maximum talent level I can project gets him to a level equivalent to where I projected Mule Suttles and the best bat available. The lowest I could see placing him is down by Ed Konetchy and Tommy Heinrich in the 60s. He's very close.
   95. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: February 21, 2007 at 04:02 AM (#2300926)
I decided to run the figures for Easter's age 23 and 24 seasons, 1939-1940. The method I outlined just above suggests that Easter would posted seasons of 28 and 29 WS. That would raise his WS total into the 370s (380s with proration to 162).

When I then ran him through my system, using the war credit version outlined in another post just above, I found that he added 4 Keltner points to his total, brining him up to 28. The in/out line is at 32, so he's still a little short. In fact, at 28 points, he'd be even with three other prominent backlog 1Bs:
-Tony Perez
-Orlando Cepeda
-Mickey Vernon.

So I think supporters of those guys may wish to reconsider what sort of scenario they are using for Easter and ask whether he belongs in the discussion with those three. He may or may not, depends on how you feel about the particulars.

So just to recap what scenario I'm discussing here:

Luke Easter (1939-1955)

YEAR  AGE WS
--------------
1939  23  28--projected
1940  24  29
--projected
1941  25  15
--car accident season
1942  26  31
--peak projection
1943  27  23
--war credit
1944  28  23
--war credit
1945  29  23
--war credit
1946  30  27
--projected
1947  31  21
--MLE
1948  32  30
--MLE
1949  33  19
--MLB MLE
1950  34  23
--MLB
1951  35  17
--MLB
1952  36  24
--MLB MLE
1953  37   8
--MLB
1954  38  22
--MLB MLE
1955  39  14
--MLE
========================
         
377 
   96. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: February 21, 2007 at 04:14 AM (#2300938)
PLEASE IGNORE PREVIOUS POST AND REPLACE WITH THIS ONE WITH MY APOLOGIES...I FOUND A BOO-BOO IN MY RANKING TOTAL OF EASTER THAT MAKES A HUGE DIFFERENCE (NOTE: NOT AN MLE ERROR).

I decided to run the figures for Easter's age 23 and 24 seasons, 1939-1940. The method I outlined just above suggests that Easter would posted seasons of 28 and 29 WS. That would raise his WS total into the 370s (380s with proration to 162).

When I then ran him through my system, using the war credit version outlined in another post just above, I found that he added 9 Keltner points to his total, brining him up to 33 points. The in/out line is at 32, so he's right there on it, tied with Norm Cash, just above Sisler, just behind Hernandez.

So I think supporters of Cash (and later Hernandez) may wish to reconsider what sort of scenario they are using for Easter and ask whether he belongs in the discussion with those two. He may or may not, depends on how you feel about the particulars.

So just to recap what scenario I'm discussing here:

Luke Easter (1939-1955)

YEAR  AGE WS
--------------
1939  23  28--projected
1940  24  29
--projected
1941  25  15
--car accident season
1942  26  31
--peak projection
1943  27  23
--war credit
1944  28  23
--war credit
1945  29  23
--war credit
1946  30  27
--projected
1947  31  21
--MLE
1948  32  30
--MLE
1949  33  19
--MLB MLE
1950  34  23
--MLB
1951  35  17
--MLB
1952  36  24
--MLB MLE
1953  37   8
--MLB
1954  38  22
--MLB MLE
1955  39  14
--MLE
========================
         
377 


If I were to accept this scenario, then Easter would be HOMable for me, but unlikely to make my 1995 ballot because there are other candidates ahead of him in the queue from across the defensive spectrum who are more urgent. However, he might eventually make my ballot as the backlog thins yet more.

That said, I don't know whether I should accept this scenario as iffy, possible, likely, probable, or what. I'm sure he was capable of high-level play at age 23, but....
   97. baudib Posted: February 21, 2007 at 12:20 PM (#2301011)

This is not to say what Easter coulda/woulda done if he had had a fairer opportunity to build a record as a younger man. We don't know. We're just trying to make the best possible judgment of that based on rather scant evidence.


I understand that; all I am saying here is that the enthusiasm should be tempered a bit here. You do not need to be a clear-cut HOF caliber player to put up the type of seasons he had at an advanced age.
   98. Yoenis Cespedes, Baseball Savant Posted: November 26, 2009 at 06:39 PM (#3397343)
Bumping this thread and reposting something from the 2010 Ballot Discussion:

I am increasingly convinced that Luke Easter is the undiscovered country of HOM cases. People smarter than myself ought to devote their considerable analytical brainpower for establishing a probabilistic model of what Easter's career would look like. As it is now, I'm tempted to simply plug in Ryan Howard's WAR numbers for his 20s. :)
   99. sunnyday2 Posted: November 26, 2009 at 06:47 PM (#3397345)
James, absolutely right. I still believe what I said 2 years ago (above). And I was just going to say he was the Ryan Howard of his day. Cokes to you.
   100. DL from MN Posted: November 26, 2009 at 09:42 PM (#3397400)
He's a dead ringer for Howard, he even looks like him. Howard came up late to MLB also.
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